As we grow older, oral care remains an important factor for good health. Proper oral care keeps us smiling well beyond retirement, and taking care of our teeth can help them last a lifetime. Whether caring for natural teeth or dentures, seniors face a range of special oral concerns. As we age, our dental needs become increasingly specialized, making regular dental visits even more essential. No matter what our age, we need to take care of our teeth, gums, and mouth.

To maintain good oral health, it is important for all of us, regardless of age, to brush twice a day, floss once a day, and maintain regular dental visits for cleaning and checkups. In addition, fluoride is just as helpful for adults as it is for children. Using fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash can help protect teeth and gums. Even if you do not have teeth, or only have had a few dental problems, it is wise to visit your dentist as least once a year for a comprehensive oral exam. At this visit, your dentist can look for signs of oral health or medical problems in the mouth. For seniors on a limited or fixed income, many dentists offer their services at reduced fees through dental society-sponsored assistance programs.

For those of us with dentures or partial dentures, it is important to keep them clean and free from food that can cause stains, bad breath or swollen gums. Once a day, brush all surfaces, inside and outside, with a denture care product and rinse with cold water. Toxic or abrasive household cleaners should never be used. While we are sleeping, dentures should be placed in water or a denture cleansing liquid. Equally important, age in and of itself is not a sole factor in determining oral health. However, certain medical conditions, such as arthritis in the hands and fingers, may make brushing difficult to perform. Electric or “power” toothbrushes are ideal for people with limited movement. The handles are thicker and easier to hold and the oscillating head does most of the work.

Regular dental visits can do more than keep our teeth healthy. They can tell a dentist a lot about our overall health. New research suggests good oral health is essential to good overall health and high quality of life. The best way to achieve good oral health is to prevent oral disease through daily brushing, flossing, and visiting a dentist regularly.